There have been few demands in the independence debate for far-reaching wealth redistribution. Class divisions are being overlooked in competing claims to “Scottishness” and other supposedly national characteristics.
Claims that the Scottish National Party (SNP) government has shielded Scots from the worst impacts of Tory austerity are hollow. Much of Scotland remains disfigured by poverty.
Yet the political landscape is different from south of the border. The SNP has campaigned against Tory welfare attacks and committed to defend and extend welfare in an independent Scotland. Its rhetoric stands in stark contrast to the Tories and even sections of Labour.
The unionist Better Together campaign says a No vote is the best way to defend the welfare state. But Labour’s recent vote for the Tories’ welfare cap won’t inspire confidence. This leaves Labour increasingly outgunned by the SNP.
Both parties are vying to be seen as the guardians of social democracy in Scotland—but a hollowed-out social democracy that doesn’t tax the rich or redistribute wealth.
The SNP’s vision is of “lean” and “competitive” Scotland with a low taxes for corporations. It says poverty can be tackled by economic growth. But economic growth in itself has never been a remedy for poverty without a large scale redistribution of wealth.
Scottish “national interest” is a myth. Scotland’s rich enjoy huge advantages and the SNP’s vision of independence won’t change that.
The referendum throws up possibilities to argue for a socialist society in which the vested interests, and privilege of the rich are seriously challenged. Only this can remove the scourge of poverty.